Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2009 Issue

A Literary Miscellany from the William Reese Company

Vangish

Carl Van Vechten's photographic portrait of actress Lilliam Gish.


Joanna Southcott was a self-proclaimed prophetess from the English countryside. Known as "the woman clothed with the sun" (a name she gave herself), Southcott developed a sizeable following in the early 19th century, perhaps a few tens of thousands. She was condemned by most of both the established and dissenting faiths, but her prophecies, at least some of which came to be, were enough to satisfy her core believers. Southcott wrote numerous pamphlets, and in 1813 published Copies of Letters Sent to the Clergy of Exeter, from 1796-1800, with Communications and Prophecies put in the Newspapers in 1813. However, it would not be until the following year that she would reveal her greatest prophecy, that she, at the age of 64, would give virgin birth to a son, "Shiloh," in the fall. However, no birth occurred, virgin or otherwise, and Southcott died on December 27. You might think that would be the end of her ministry, but followers found explanations for the lack of a physical child and continued to spread her prophesies. To this day, she still has a small but dedicated group of followers. Item 493. $150.

Here is W.H Auden as you never knew him: The Platonic Blow, published in 1965 by the F*** You Press (not one of the more famous of publishers, and by the way, those are not really asterisks in its name). Auden is noted for more serious, romantic poetry, but in 1948, the gay poet wrote a quite pornographic, gay poem to be circulated among friends. The New York publisher with the unprintable name picked it up and published this unauthorized edition of 300 copies in 1965. Auden never officially recognized his authorship, but did not seriously deny it either, and seems to have been slyly proud of the work. Item 14. $300.

Item 535 is a 1937 photographic portrait of actress Lillian Gish by Carl Van Vechten. Van Vechten was an author who turned to photography in the 1930s and photographed many great writers and artists of the day. Gish was one of the leading actresses of the silent film era, who continued to appear in film and television as late as 1987 (she lived to be 99). She is most noted for her starring role in D.W. Griffith's controversial but pioneering 1915 film, Birth of a Nation. $1,250.

The William Reese Company may be reached at 203-789-8081 or litorder@reeseco.com. Their website is www.reeseco.com.

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